Getting there is an adventure on its own. From Florence to Modena, I had to take a taxi, two trains, and a 20-minute walk through the city center. That’s just a small gesture to eat at the best restaurant in the world.
Once there, it is quite lovely to explore the city. Modena is full of charm, of centuries of history, and with a small but booming gastronomic scene. Walking through the streets of this small Italian town, it’s an experience itself. It’s almost like taking part in some Hollywood classic of the ’60s, strolling around smelling the intoxicating aroma of Parmigiano Reggiano, hearing the powerful sound of the last Ferrari model and shopping in very boutique stores that sell an array of locally made balsamic vinegar. What a sight! What a feeling! And I am still a couple of blocks away from the restaurant.
If I want to be honest with myself, the journey to eat at Massimo Bottura’s restaurant started a couple of months ago, when the reservation period opened. I had to wake in the middle of the night, press the refresh button a million times, to be the first in line to secure a table at the famous restaurant. Would it be worth it? As long as I get to experience the best meal of this generation, it will!
Three months later, I’m there, observing the little gold sign in front of the pink building that says Osteria Francescana. Along with me are all the lucky ones that got a reservation. We are all outside, waiting for the doors to open and start our journey. Once inside, from the first greeting, I feel like royalty.
Everything is impeccable: the décor, the painting, the ambiance, the music, the service, and the smells. After sitting down, I get to work. The first duty is to pick a wine from their unbelievably huge wine collection and then choose between the traditional tasting menu or the experimental one. Either decision is the right one. It’s Massimo, and I can’t go wrong!
When the show starts, I feel like I’m experiencing an orchestra in motion; every little detail flows, every movement is coordinated, each plate has a reason to be in that order. Little by little, I started to understand the greatness of Massimo Bottura, his wife Lara Gilmore, sous chef Takahiko Konda and the team at Osteria Francescana.
With each bite, I tasted a part of the chef’s history –where he has been and how his mind works- and get to experience the culture of generations past. It’s unbelievable how tortellini can take me back to Italy of the ’50s or an interpretation of lasagna to our mother’s kitchen. Even more fascinating, is knowing that the ingredients used for each recipe have travel just a couple of miles to get to the restaurant, and that freshness makes all the difference.
It’s been a long and winding road for this Italian chef and his best in the world accolade. With that said, when it was founded in the ’90s, the story was a lot different. They were misunderstood and way ahead of their time, but as always, if we do things right, life will unravel as it should be. For Massimo, Osteria Francescana is more than a restaurant; it’s a culinary experiment and platform to foster the essential things in life, to have a positive impact on other’s life’s and to create something that will last for generations. For me, Osteria Francescana, its culture, its art, and food, it’s just an excuse to bring it all together.
Paul E González Mangual is an author of four books, founder of FOODIEcations, columnist for Sabrosía Puerto Rico, TEDx speaker, Guinness World Record Holder, whiskey enthusiast, coffee addict, and producer of the Coffee & Chocolate Expo.
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